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Faleomavaega stands with Democratic colleagues to fight for territory’s Medicaid

reporters@samoanews.com

Congressman Faleomavaega Eni says he will continue to work with his Democratic colleagues in Congress to ensure that critical funding for American Samoa’s Medicaid program is not affected by Republican proposals to significantly reduce federal healthcare funding for the five U.S. Territories, according to a press release from his Washington, D.C. office yesterday, April 30th. 

In a 30-21 vote strictly along party lines, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee voted last week Wednesday to repeal the Increased Federal Medicaid Funding Cap and Match Rate for Territories.

The legislation, put forward by Republican Chairman Fred Upton, seeks to repeal a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that provided $6.3 billion in additional funding for Medicaid in the territories from FY 2011 to FY 2019, and increased the territories’ Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) from 50% to 55%. 

In a letter to Chairman Fred Upton, dated April 20, 2012, Congressman Faleomavaega said that along with his colleagues from the U.S. Territories, they voiced their strong opposition to the proposed cuts, the press release noted. Another letter to Chairman Upton, dated April 25, 2012, from all Democratic members of the House Natural Resources Committee, led by Ranking Member Edward Markey and including Congressman Faleomavaega, further denounced the Republican proposed legislation.

In its story, last Friday, “More bad news for LBJ: Medicaid cuts will affect American Samoa”, Samoa News reported that a letter from all the territories governors, including Gov. Togiola Tulafono was also sent to the Energy and Commerce Committee asking “to vote 'no' on de-funding the territories. “It would be unfair in the extreme to single out the Territories,” the letter noted.

The bill is expected to be considered by the full House in the coming weeks, according to Faleomavaega.

“While I understand the need for fiscal reform and the important work we must do in Congress to reduce the deficit, I do not believe that any budget alternative should be taken out on America’s most vulnerable populations,” Congressman Faleomavaega stated.

“The residents of the five U.S. Territories, numbering more than 4 million, have historically received unequal treatment under the Medicaid program in comparison to the States. For example, some of the country’s poorest states receive upwards of 80 percent in their federal matching requirement (FMAP) for Medicaid and do not have a mandated funding cap on their Medicaid program. The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote, sought to address some of these disparities.  While it did not fully close the inequality gap, it did provide a major step forward for the Territories. Out of the $6.3 billion in additional funding to the Territories, the ACA increased American Samoa’s Medicaid funding to a total of $285.5 million over the nine year period from FY 2011-FY 2019, compared to $105 million without the legislation.” 

“The Affordable Care Act was a major step forward for American Samoa and the U.S. Territories, but this Republican bill only seeks to reverse our progress towards equality under the Medicaid program. If this bill were to be enacted, American Samoa’s FY 2012 funding cap of approximately $28 million will revert back to a pre-ACA ceiling of approximately $10.6 million next year,” said Congressman Faleomavaega.

Last week, LBJ chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger told Samoa News that “Medicaid accounts for 35% of our income — if slashed, then either someone else, i.e. the government —will have to pick up that burden, or we will wind up delivering less care. Those are our choices.”

Faleomavaega in his press release said, “At this time, I, along with my fellow Territorial delegates will continue to work hard to ensure that this bill does not become law. It is highly unlikely that the Senate will pass or the President will sign into law such a bill that would repeal such important funding for our Territories.”



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